In Houston’s Harris County, staying on probation and out of jail is tougher than almost anywhere else in Texas, the Houston Chronicle reports. About one of seven Harris County probationers was put behind bars last year for failing to comply with court-ordered conditions, the highest revocation rate of any major Texas metropolitan area. Once viewed as a sign of a tough criminal justice system, a high revocation rate is increasingly considered a liability that fills costly jail space with low-level offenders and drains tax dollars.
That shift in perception puts mounting pressure on judges and probation officials at a time when the county probation department is ailing. Its former director quit this month after less than two years on the job. With caseloads of about 150 for each officer, helping low-level criminals get job training, substance-abuse treatment, and other services they need to stay out of trouble is a major challenge. Texas Gov. Rick Perry vetoed a crime bill June 17 that was designed to reform the probation system by limiting community-service requirements and forcing judges to review probation cases and consider ending supervision early for good behavior.